And so it begins. We've known for a while that the Republicans have planned to trot out a tax increase message, as a siamese twin to "cut and run." There have been reports that the GOP would run the national campaign on security, but in local races would try to capitalize on voter concern about the economy by running hard on tax. This makes sense, particularily if you listen to reports like this on NPR this morning, showing discontent over the economy in rural areas (and noting that Dems were doing surprisingly well amongst rural voters.) And, so, no surprise yesterday when President Bush began to roll out the tax message, during a sweep through Florida yesterday.
Predictability notwithstanding, there is something rather fantastic about all of this. The President says that, if the Democrats win back the House, they would raise taxes. In fact he says they plan to raise taxes. I might be ignorant on this matter, but i no of no such plan. And i can't think of any particular reason why a Democratic house would to do this. Come 2008 Democrats will have to cope with the unexploded bomb of whether to repeal the Bush tax cuts and get slated for raising taxes, or to suck it up and forgoe any hope of returning to fiscal balance. Mark Warner fired the most recent shot on this battle this week, and it'll run all the way through the elections. But that is not relevant in this election.
The Democrats have neither plans for a tax increase on anything, nor planned increases in spending so large as to infer that a tax increase would be needed, nor any chance of enacting such an increase with a Republican President and a likely Republican Senate. Naively one might that in order to say they will Republicans would at least feel obliged to concoct some sort of rationale for the claims. But no. Check out the RNC - where you will find not a single fact-sheet or issue brief giving any reason why the Democrats might actually raise taxes in practice. Add this together with their other frequent dissembling over rising wages, fast-growing job numbers and falling deficits and it seems clear that out there, beyond the outer-rim of the reality-based community, a passing familiarity with the truth is no longer something to which one should even aspire.
As our own Pete Leyden would say, the web has gone 2.0. The NYT has an excellent update about the state of the internet and the increasingly important role of video:
"...the world has gone batty over video. Thirty-second clips, three-minute spoofs, half-hour sitcoms, TV dramas that haven’t been shown in decades, rap videos, Hollywood blockbusters and feeds from TV news outlets big and small are flooding online. The term video itself is already starting to sound old — the equivalent of songs before the advent of MP3’s and downloads."
Progressives need to understand this technology, and how we can use it to get our message out. If you've been wondering what Apple iTV, NBC Broadband, Google and Yahoo are up to in this space, this article is a good way to get up to speed.
This is an extremely important fall for progressives and the New Politics Institute wants to help maximize the impact that organizations and campaigns can make through advertising and media. Our national tools campaign focuses on four critical tools that could make a huge difference in the weeks ahead.
They are “Buy Cable,” “Use Search Ads,” “Engage the Blogs,” and “Speak in Spanish.” Each of these are proven techniques to more effectively reach critical constituencies and the public at large. Progressives can easily and immediately adopt all of them right now.
The first recommendation, “Buy Cable,” is the most important because so much political money currently goes to broadcast television ads – a whopping $1.5 billion in the 2004 cycle compared to less than $80 million on cable ads. Yet, as our new cable memo makes clear, much of that money is wasted in reaching people far beyond the districts that progressive organizations and campaigns want to reach.
Cable TV ads allow you to reach much more targeted audiences, both in demographic and geographic terms – and it’s cheaper to boot. In many if not most situations, shifting significant TV ad spending from broadcast to cable is a more effective and efficient strategy.
The accompanying “Buy Cable” memo makes the argument in more detail and points to how progressives can start to do this. It’s written by NPI Senior Advisor Theo Yedinsky, who has extensive campaign experience, and NPI Founder Simon Rosenberg.
Feel free to distribute this far and wide. If you are part of a campaign or organization, use it to influence this fall’s strategy. If you are a donor, use it to make sure your money is not wasted, but used wisely. If we all do this, we can save the progressive movement millions of dollars, and make political advertising much more potent this fall.
In the coming weeks we’ll be pushing the other recommendations of the Tools Campaign. For now, let’s help move more TV ad spend to cable.
Peter Leyden Director of the New Politics Institute
NDN Senior Policy Advisor James Crabtree has an article in today's online edition of The American Prospect. It seems that a close relationship with President Bush isn't just toxic to candidates here in the states, but also his friends across the pond.
Interesting. Very Interesting. Chris Cillizza's blog over at the Post tells of a new type of "telephone townhall" campaigning technique, otherwise known as a giant conference call, being used by Republicans in the Kentucky 2nd. I've never heard of this being used as a way to talk to voters. Seems like a smart way idea, especially in rural areas. The video clip says more about how it works.
The sophmore edition of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas. NDN is a big fan both of the journal, and its two founders, so we'd encourage you to sign up regardless. Luckily, though, issue 2 looks just as interesting as the first, and showcases a number of hip policy concerns.
First, a controversial article on China, that gives progressives a spin normally more associated with neo-conservatives. China's rise is an ideological threat, rather than a generally good thing mitigated by a few ethical and economic glitches:
The rise of China presents the West, for the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall, with a formidable ideological challenge to that paradigm. The "China model" powerfully combines two components: illiberal capitalism, the practice and promotion of a governance strategy where markets are free but politics are not; and illiberal sovereignty, an approach to international relations that emphasizes the inviolability of national borders in the face of international intervention.
(Interestingly, there is a small story in the FT today about German Minister Michael Glos saying something fairly similar, in particular noting that "China's aggressive attempts to secure energy supplies in developing countries constituted a "breach of international rules of behaviour." The diplomatic, ethical and ideological implications of China throwing her weight around are clearly underappreciated. The piece is a timely reminder.)
Second, there is also a plug by Barack Obama's policy head Karen Kornbluh for this month's hot social policy: the revival of social insurance systems. Kornbluh notes that "mass layoffs, globalization, rising costs of living, and lower real wages" means that "Americans no longer rely on stable careers, nor do they assume that they will earn enough to raise a family on one salary." We need "a national commitment to mitigating the new risks to the economic well-being of families." This sounds similiar to Jacob Hacker's ideas in his new Hamilton paper, and elsewhere.
All in all, interesting "big ideas" of the sort Democracy was meant to be hawking. Get yourself a copy.
A thoughtful continuation of the ongoing half-full, half-empty debate in the Economix collumn in this morning's Times. To Recap briefly. Some thinkers look at flat wages and incomes in combination with rising costs, and see Americans struggling. Not so fast, say others of more centrist or right wing bent - people's incomes now get them a far superior basket of goods, better health and the like. Here is how the Times puts it:
For the last few weeks, there has been a roiling debate, both within the Democratic Party and between Democrats and Republicans, about how to describe living standards in this country. Among Democrats, the debate is really about how to talk to voters about the economy as the party tries to reclaim control of Congress this year and the White House in 2008. One group of Democrats says that it’s time to stop pulling punches and acknowledge that, at best, life is marginally better than it was a generation ago. The other group argues that the middle class’s current problems should not obscure enormous progress made over the last few decades. President Bush and his aides agree with the progress part and go on to say that the middle class continues to do quite nicely today. Each group has its preferred numbers, which can be dizzying, but you don’t need to dig into them to figure out what’s really going on. You just need to understand snow blowers. [You have to read the article to understand why the example of snowblowers explains so much]
Of course, the latter group are right to a degree. Brink Lindsey, a libertarian guest at last friday's forum at the Hamilton Project, put the thought experiment well. If things are so awful, would you, he asked, swap today's median income, basket of goods and life chances for that in (say) 1973? Give up the iPod? Give back those couple of years of life expectancy? Few would. Nonetheless, these issues - precisely how inflation is counted in the CPI, or whether better consumer products make life better - only take us so far. As Dean Baker points out on his TAP blog, the extent of this goods bias is in question. And even then it doesn't explain why Americans are so grumpy about their economic prospects, or why they are unwilling to give the Republicans the credit they think they deserve for an economy which has grown at a fair clip since the end of the last recovery. And so it seems fair to say that the democratic critique of the Bush economy - like the one we put out last week - is not undone by these issues. People aren't content for a variety of reasons. Their incomes aren't going up, or at best they aren't going up as fast as they used to. They see other people's going up faster. They are sensitive to fast price rises in consumer goods, like gas. They feel less secure because the consequences of a job loss are ever-more severe. They feel less secure because the odds of income loss have risen substanially. And no ammount of talk of cheaper, inflation proof snowblowers seems to make people think otherwise.
As you've seen often in this space I believe the meta-political story of our time is the profound and deep failure of Republican government to deliver on its basic obligations. We think of Iraq, the broken levees, declining wages, unprecedented institutional corruption, a failed Doha trade round, out of control spending, sanctioned torture, and no action on emerging challenges like global climate change, energy independence, health care and immigration.
As former Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough put it in a piece in the Post's Outlook section this weekend: "How exactly does one convince the teeming masses that Republicans deserve to stay in power despite botching a war, doubling the national debt, keeping company with Jack Abramoff, fumbling the response to Hurricane Katrina, expanding the government at record rates, raising cronyism to an art form, playing poker with Duke Cunningham, isolating America and repeatedly electing Tom DeLay as their House majority leader?"
In the reading the paper the past few days, I came across a series of stories whose headlines suggest, remarkably, that there may be even more to this already sad story: "Islamists’ Rise Imperils Mideast’s Order," "Major Problem at Polls Feared," "NATO Faces Growing Hurdle As Call for Troops Falls Short," "Chirac Signals Widening Divide," and "Trade Deficit 2nd Highest Ever."
But of all the stories I read these past few days about how our government is failing the American people, one stood out. It was a front page piece in the Post on Sunday, a piece that I hope all of you will read in its entirety. It is an excerpt from a new book detailing the early days of our occupation of Iraq. And it is one of most damning things I've ever read about anyone or anything in politics. Here are the first few graphs:
"After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans -- restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O'Beirne's office in the Pentagon.
To pass muster with O'Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.
O'Beirne's staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade .
Many of those chosen by O'Beirne's office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq's government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance -- but had applied for a White House job -- was sent to reopen Baghdad's stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget, even though they didn't have a background in accounting.
The decision to send the loyal and the willing instead of the best and the brightest is now regarded by many people involved in the 3 1/2 -year effort to stabilize and rebuild Iraq as one of the Bush administration's gravest errors. Many of those selected because of their political fidelity spent their time trying to impose a conservative agenda on the postwar occupation, which sidetracked more important reconstruction efforts and squandered goodwill among the Iraqi people, according to many people who participated in the reconstruction effort."
And it gets worse from here. Read it and weep, my friends, for our country who has been led by incompetent fools these past few years.
We all know how Google has impacted business. But in the last week there have been public signs about how the Silicon Valley innovator is also going to try and impact society and politics. Another front page story in the New York Times shed some light on the aspirations of Google.org, a new kind of for-profit philanthropy that is starting off with about $1 billion in seed money. The organization is run by Larry Brilliant, an amazing high tech character who I happen to know quite well. Larry (who was part of the World Health Organization team that eradicated smallpox) is pushing to take on huge problems like global warming, global poverty and disease.
The other story got much less play, but for politics may have even more significance. Google is forming a PAC to raise money for candidates and causes. The San Francisco Chronicle story emphasized that they have hired two prominent Republicans hiring former Republican Senators Dan Coats of Indiana and Connie Mack of Florida as outside lobbyists. But that’s mostly because Google recently has been lambasted by Republicans for, among other things, being seen as leaning too progressive or Democratic.
The good news is that Google, with all its talents and resources, is gearing up to finally play politics.